What is Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA)?

Ashwani Paliwal
September 26, 2023

Cyberattacks and data breaches have become a significant concern, and developers must stay vigilant against potential vulnerabilities. One such vulnerability that poses a considerable threat to data security is Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA), also known as Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR). In this blog, we will delve into the concept of BOLA, understand how it works, explore the potential risks it poses, and discuss preventive measures to mitigate this vulnerability.

What is Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA)?

Broken Object Level Authorization is a security vulnerability that arises when an application does not properly enforce access controls or authorization mechanisms on specific objects within its system. In simpler terms, it allows attackers to access, modify, or delete sensitive data or resources they are not authorized to access. The vulnerability is typically introduced when developers fail to validate user permissions before granting access to particular objects.

To explain it further, consider a web application where users can view and manage their own content, such as personal files or account settings. Each user's data should be segregated and protected so that users can only access their own information. However, if the application fails to enforce this restriction and relies solely on client-side checks or easily manipulable parameters, attackers can tamper with these parameters to gain unauthorized access to other users' data.

How Broken Object Level Authorization Works

The process of exploiting BOLA usually involves the following steps:

  1. Identification: Attackers first identify an object (e.g., a file or a user account) that they are not supposed to access.
  2. Manipulation: They then manipulate the application's parameters, such as changing the object's ID in the URL or altering hidden fields in web forms.
  3. Bypassing Access Controls: By successfully manipulating the parameters, attackers bypass the application's access controls, tricking the system into believing they have legitimate access rights to the targeted object.
  4. Unauthorized Actions: Once inside, attackers can view, modify, or delete sensitive data, potentially causing severe damage to the victim and the organization.

Potential Risks of BOLA

The risks associated with Broken Object Level Authorization can be highly detrimental, both to individuals and businesses:

  • Data Breaches: Attackers can access and exfiltrate sensitive data, including personally identifiable information (PII), financial records, or intellectual property, leading to privacy violations and potential legal consequences.
  • Identity Theft: By accessing other users' personal accounts, attackers can perform identity theft, leading to financial losses and reputational damage.
  • Unauthorized Actions: Attackers may manipulate critical data, make unauthorized transactions, or tamper with crucial settings, disrupting normal operations and causing financial losses.
  • Reputational Damage: Data breaches and unauthorized access incidents can severely damage an organization's reputation, leading to a loss of customer trust and loyalty.

Preventing Broken Object Level Authorization Vulnerabilities

To safeguard against BOLA vulnerabilities, developers and organizations can take the following preventive measures:

  • Implement Proper Access Controls: Developers must enforce strict access controls at both the server and application levels. Ensure that users can only access their own objects and actions or implement and adaptive authentication solutions.
  • Validating User Permissions: Always validate user permissions and authorization before granting access to any object or resource.
  • Use Indirect References: Instead of exposing direct object references like IDs in URLs, use indirect references that are harder to guess or manipulate.
  • Apply Least Privilege Principle: Follow the principle of least privilege, ensuring that users only have the necessary permissions required to perform their tasks.
  • Conduct Regular Security Audits: Perform regular security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify potential weaknesses and fix them promptly.


Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA) is a serious security vulnerability that can lead to data breaches, unauthorized access, and potential financial losses for both individuals and organizations. Developers and organizations must prioritize the implementation of robust access controls, user permission validation, and other preventive measures to safeguard against this threat. By adopting a proactive approach to security and staying updated on the latest security practices, we can reduce the risk of BOLA vulnerabilities and protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

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